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April 25, 2011

The Electric Car's Revenge Arrives on the Big Screen

Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives to the premiere in a Tesla. Photo credit: Gina Coplon-Newfield.

I was thrilled to attend the Earth Day world premiere of Revenge of the Electric Car at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. The Sierra Club is co-hosting the Revenge's premiere, and we will work with the filmmakers to promote this highly entertaining film when it's ready for a wider release.

Revenge of the Electric Car by acclaimed filmmaker Chris Paine (Who Killed the Electric Car?) features the high-stakes race by General Motors, Tesla Motors, and Nissan for which company can first bring gas-free electric vehicles (EVs) to the masses –- for real this time. With tens of thousands of electric Nissan Leafs, Chevy Volts, and Tesla Roadsters being sold to eager consumers this year, and more than 30 additional electric models set to hit dealerships in the next few years, the film's debut could not be more timely.

Though not exactly Hollywood A-listers, the film's stars had their own kind of celebrity appeal on the red carpet. They were GM's former Executive VP Bob Lutz, whose total about-face on electric vehicles and the Chevy Volt makes him an unlikely environmental hero (well, maybe hero is too strong a word); Tesla's CEO Elon Musk, who embodies this century's new kind of innovative entrepreneur and takes risks that has ushered his company to the brink; and Nissan's CEO Carlos Ghosn, who has dared to put a full-electric Leaf toward the front of Nissan's brand (Ghosn couldn't make the premiere, but attended a second screening and panel discussion at Tribeca the next day).

The film also tells the story of Greg "Gadget" Abbott, who retrofits gas-powered cars and turns them electric. Additionally appearing in the film are economist and New York Times journalist Tom Friedman, actor Danny DeVito, Wall Street Journal writer Dan Neil, Edmunds.com analyst Michelle Krebs, Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis, and Entourage TV star Adrian Grenier. Actor Tim Robbins moderates the film.

Dan Neil, Elon Musk, Chris Paine in a panel discussion. Photo credit: Rick Kim.

During the post-film Q & A session, I thanked Chris Paine for giving the world a terrific film and inviting Sierra Club to co-host the premiere. And I wasn't just being polite –- it's a fantastic film that celebrates the complexity and excitement of a brand new day for the automotive industry and consumers looking for gas-free alternatives. GM's Bob Lutz (who once said "global warming is a crock of sh%t") told the premiere's audience how solar power has enough energy to power all our energy needs, but we're just not taking advantage of it. Chris Paine then joked that there is a job opening at the Sierra Club waiting for him (well, we'll see about that).

Club staffer Mary Nemerov and I had a blast attending the premiere and after-party with friends of the Sierra Club, which included Founder and President of Bluewater Wind Peter Mandelstam, as well as singer-songwriter Dar Williams and her husband Michael Robinson. Williams wrote an Op-Ed about EVs in the Huffington Post earlier this year.

The review on TheMovieBanter.com said: "One of the most interesting and entertaining documentaries I have ever seen, Revenge of the Electric Car lets you into the amazing lives of four different people and their perspective on the electric car. I can't even imagine how many hours of footage Paine and his team had to go through. Bravo to them. We don't rate our movies with thumbs on this site, but both my thumbs here are way way up."

The film is truly a fun ride! If you're like me, you'll route for all of the protagonists at GM, Nissan, and Tesla (and all the other automaker champions of EVs), because their success will mean the success of an industry that will put us on a road to reduce dangerous emissions and our dependence on oil. You'll likely be able to watch Revenge at a theater near you or on your home screen this summer, and we at the Sierra Club will promote screenings through our Go Electric campaign.  In the meantime, see the trailer, and stay tuned! 

President of Bluewater Wind Peter Mandelstam, Gina Coplon-Newfield, Michael Robinson, and singer-song writer Dar Williams. Photo credit: Mary Nemerov

-- Gina Coplon-Newfield, Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative for Electric Vehicles


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